Judge Denies Insanity Plea for Krenwinkel
Thursday, January 28th, 1971
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 28 – One of the four members of hippie leader Charles Manson’s “family” convicted of the seven brutal Tate-LaBianca murders Monday today attempted to change her plea to not guilty by reason of insanity.
The motion was denied after a brief in-chambers session.
The unorthodox move by chief defense counsel Paul Fitzgerald came as the first witness in the penalty phase of the marathon trial stood ready to take the stand in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The change of plea request came for 23-year-old Patricia Krenwinkel, the only one of the four convicted whose fingerprint was found at tht home of pregnant actress Sharon Tate.
The plea was made over the objections of Miss Krenwinkel, and none of the other defendants — Manson, Susan Atkins or Leslie Van Houten — would agree to a similar plea for themselves.
Fitzgerald said the new and additional plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, he knew, should have been interposed at the time of plea eight months ago, however, that plea or one of diminished capacity would have been interpreted as a guilty plea.
“Now the situation has changed remarkably. She stands guilty of seven counts of murder and the jury is to decide whether she ought to live or die. That jury should be apprised of any mental condition she might have,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said a psychiatrist could examine his client and if she would be determined sane, the penalty phase of the trial could begin immediately.
Chief prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi objected to the plea as being “too far after the bell has rung.”
“Mr. Fitzgerald should have made this motion immediately after the verdict came in, if at all, and not just before we call our first witness. However, in view of the seriousness of the plea we should exhaustively research the law and the court should not rule cavalierly.”
Judge Charles Older, taking the prosecutor’s suggestion, consulted with attorneys in chambers, then denied Fitzgerald’s request that the defendants also be brought in.
“I did not consult with Miss Krenwinkel on this,” Fitzgerald told the judge, “and I can hear her behind me. She is not in accord.”
In addition to the change of plea motion, Fitzgerald said he was prepared to challenge the constitutionality of the penalty phase of the trial.
A 28-year-old Negro trumpeter, still carrying a bullet in his back allegedly put there by Manson, will be the first witness against the convicted murderer in the penalty phase of the trial.
Bernard Crowe, 28, allegedly was shot by Manson after a problem over narcotics. A prosecution witness during the Tate-LaBianca trial testified he went with Manson to Crowe’s house. Manson, he said, was armed with a gun, but testimony about the shooting itself was never brought out.
Also scheduled to take the stand as the prosecution lines up testimony which, it hopes, will send Manson and his “followers” to the gas chamber are Deputy Coroner David Katsuyama, Sgt. Paul Whiteley and deputy Charles Gunther, both of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and Ronni Howard, a former cellmate of Miss Atkins.
Miss Howard, who testified to a “confession” by Miss Atkins to the Tate-LaBianca murders, is scheduled to relate another “confession” by the girl that to the murder off Topanga Canyon musician Gary Hinman a week before the Tate killings.
The Hinman murder case is being brought out, prosecutors said Wednesday, to show that Manson and Miss Atkins had participated in other killings. Manson and Miss Atkins have both been indicted for the killing. The trial is scheduled next month.
By MARY NEISWENDER